Maintaining compliance with HIPAA, TCPA, the FTC, and the host of other regulatory boards is complicated. An inadvertent error can result in massive fines, but there is much to be gained from a smart online strategy if you avoid the minefield of potential violations. For the next five weeks, we’re breaking down five marketing landmines that risk HIPAA and regulatory compliance. Each article will cover one of the five landmines, and each article will conclude with an opportunity for readers to download a white paper that explains all five landmines in greater detail. Our goal is to help you ask the right questions about your practice; and ask your vendors the right questions. If they get HIPAA wrong, you will be the person who burns. Let’s get started.
Reviews on third party sites do help market your practice. In fact, they are the best marketing tool that exists. While filtering reviews to promote only the“good ones” seems like a smart idea, it’s a regulatory landmine. Filtering reviews triggers oversight from state medical and dental licensing boards, state attorney generals, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Reviews are a valuable and inexpensive way for doctors to market their practice. If you or your business associates only solicit positive reviews for upload to third party sites, regulatory bodies may view such “advertising” as deceptive or misleading.
Consider this real life example…
An urgent care medical service provider in New York paid thousands of dollars to internet advertising companies and freelance writers for positive reviews on consumer opinion websites. The healthcare provider never required that reviewers visit its facility or experience the services, and never disclosed that the reviewers were paid for the review. The New York Attorney General announced a $100,000 settlement and cited the FTC “Guidelines on the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising.” Further, they are prohibited from falsely saying that someone promoting its services is an independent party and cannot pay an endorser unless the payment is disclosed.
In a worst case scenario, this could put one’s license at risk. Further, a sanction is public record; one that can be accessed on Google and various online review sites, such as Healthgrades. Filtered reviews on third party sites could be deemed unrepresentative. More importantly, there is no disclosure that the reviews were filtered and such lack of disclosure could represent an FTC violation. The FTC is okay with filtering endorsements of a practice as long as the technique for gathering the endorsement is visibly disclosed. If you are cherry picking the good ones for upload, that must be disclosed in the review.
The value of a review with such a disclosure, however, would clearly be diminished as in the example below…
So, how do you make the good reviews rise to the top? The more reviews the better. An occasional negative review is inevitable.
But, the solution to pollution is dilution. Collect reviews from hundreds of patients at the point of service and the abundance of happy reviews will drown out the stench of the occasional rotten review.